Learning tools like Moodle or Blackboard were born with the idea to aid face-to-face lectures and online course delivery many years ago. They were born at a time when unidirectional knowledge transfer rather than student interaction and active learning was the priority. We now have a situation whereby such platforms are used to deliver pseudo face-to-face sessions – out of necessity. Yes, PowerPoints and PDFs can be uploaded, task instructions and answer sheets can be made available at specified times. Sessions can be video recorded and made available. And yet I have an issue with some learning platforms.
Navigating through folders and subfolders is laborious for teachers and even more so for students. Students do not always know what is stored in which folder under which heading. Lecture slides here, seminar slides there, group lists under seminar groups, groups assigned to coursework topics under assessment. The assignment brief is under the submission link, the video recordings in the ‘Virtual classroom’ folder. What is missing is a topic-specific storyline that leads students from A to B and allows them to dig in where they want to. The rigidity of learning tools with outdated structures becomes omnipresent. Developed as a general one-size-fits-all tool, they are in utter contradiction to the concept of contemporary individual learning. Generalisation allows control for the developers, but restricts creativity for users. The legacy systems we are dealing with today have become complex and even though many new file types can be handled, it is not the file types that are of concern. It is the influence these systems exert on us when designing a learning journey. I am hopeful and look forward to a learning platform design that takes individualism into account, allows for instant spontaneous working group setups for task-related social interactions and more. One that does not require 3+ applications to run a lecture with a presentation, an in-class survey and a video link in it. Until then we need to take a pragmatic approach to meet the ambitions we have set out in our teaching philosophies.